On the east side of Chandler Slough, the slough itself is not so obvious at first. But after slipping through dense oak hammocks and around rounded prairies, the trail leads to the open pastureland along the slough’s edge.
North of the designated campsite, there are more wide open spaces than dense woodlands. Yet the oak hammocks are especially lush, and wildflowers bloom profusely along the prairies, making for a pleasant trek.
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Length: 2.7 miles linear
Trailhead: 27.328859, -81.021606
Land manager: South Florida Water Management District
Phone: 561-924-5310 ext. 3333, weekdays. Ask for Kim Willis.
Since there are trailheads at both ends of this hike, you can drop a car at the first one you encounter when driving south on Lofton Rd and start from the southern trailhead. Or hike out-and-back from either trailhead.
A free permit is required from South Florida Water Management District to camp at Chandler Slough East. Obtain online or call the above number.
Be aware of hunting seasons and wear bright orange clothing if hiking during hunts. Links for permits and hunt dates provided at the bottom of this page.
1/6/20 update: Construction on the opposite side of the Kissimmee River presently impacts the camping experience with a lot of noise. Access to the water source (river) is blocked off. Bring enough water for camping.
Follow US 98 north from Okeechobee 12 miles to Lofton Rd. Turn left. Continue down Lofton Rd for 2.4 miles. The northern trailhead [27.355110,-81.013451] for this hike is on the right. Drop a car there if you are hiking between cars.
Continue another 1.9 miles to the parking corral on the right immediately before the railroad tracks.
Entering the gap in the fence, follow the fence up to the top of the grassy berm in front of the tall pines. Walk atop the berm away from Lofton Rd until you see a pass-thru gap in the fence below. Head through it.
Take a cue from the double blaze to find where the trail slips into the forest. At first surrounded by a dense oak and palm hammock, the corridor opens up under the pines.
Passing through another fence gap, the trail leads along the edge of a cordgrass wetland before it reaches an oak hammock with a large live oak at its core.
Blazed posts, some with orange blazes painted on a white background, lead across open areas where prairie swarms between the oak hammocks. Skirt a large wetland with some open water in the distance.
After a mile, the trail enters a very dense oak hammock that gets even denser at its center. Sunlight creates halos around the resurrection fern that covers the oak limbs. Saw palmetto fills the understory.
Watch for a sign for the side trail to the Chandler Slough East campsite. It’s off the main trail along a blue blaze, but worth the side trip, definitely worth being a destination for an out-and-back hike.
Set in the same mature oak hammock, it is surrounded by ancient trees. Sign in at the trail register tucked in a mailbox. The blue blazes continue past the camping area through a former pasture to reach the Kissimmee River.
When the campsite first opened, the trail crew that built it called it Tangerine Hill. With a little searching you might spot the wild citrus in the winter months.
Heading north from the campsite junction, the trail crosses a broad open area that once served as a cattle pasture, using a footbridge to get over a ditch built to drain the wetlands for pasturage long ago.
While it continues to stay out in the open, the trail curves to steer clear of Chandler Slough, which sits immediately north around 1.5 miles. The brown needles of the cypresses are noticeable in winter.
Where the trail finally leaves the edge of the slough, it passes beneath the shade of a very large old oak tree just before the 2 mile mark.
Leading across one final long stretch of former pasture, the footpath rounds a pretty cordgrass marsh. It’s from here you can see the ridge-like shape of Chandler Slough in the distance.
Skirting a old cistern and windmill, the trail reaches the Chandler Slough East trailhead after 2.7 miles.
NORTHBOUND: Chandler Slough West. To connect the Chandler Slough East trailhead with the Chandler Slough West stile, long distance and section hikers must roadwalk 3.2 miles up Lofton Rd and along US 98 west.
SOUTHBOUND: Yates Marsh. A brief roadwalk on Lofton Rd is needed to reach the Yates Marsh trailhead.
See our photos of Chandler Slough East
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